Monday, June 27, 2016

The tools - part #2 - powered tools

Even though it is possible to make knives completely without powered tools, these will make your life considerably easier. so what it is that you may want/need.

Drill press

I have already mentioned it in the part #1 and only add it here for completeness. I got the Bosch PDB 40 for about 250€, but you can get a simpler drill press for half that much. I would add that you also want to get a drill vise so that you are able to safely and accurately position different parts you need to drill into. One will cost you around 30 - 50 €.

Steel cutting powered tools

Sooner or later you will find out that cutting blanks with hack saw is slow and tedious process - in particular with larger knives. So - the options are the following:

  • Dedicated metal band saw. 
  • Angle grinder. This is a relatively cheap (50€ - 70€) and fast solution. 
  • Other types of hand-held saws which hold the blade on one end only like jigsaw. Some of these are designed to cut metal, so that could be an option too. However I have no experience there, nor did I find others that would use these kind of saws.

There are also options that you should rather avoid. In the first place these are wood band saws. The problem there is not necessarily in the power of the saw, but wood band saws run with much higher speeds and use different belt blades that will dull within few seconds on metal.

Metal band Saw

These start at around 400€. Make sure you get one that can be positioned vertically and have additional working plate attached. The fully professional vertical metal band saws are in 3000+€ range and I do not consider them here a viable alternative here for cost and size reasons.

Angle grinder

You may ask yourself - what is angle grinder good for? It is indeed not a tool for a detailed work, but it can be used to cut out (roughly) blanks. This only makes sense if you have a grinder to finish the blanks as it is advisable to leave 2-3 mm of material. That much steel would take long to remove with a file, but even with a small 1x30" belt grinder it takes just a few minutes. It is also one of the cheapest tools for this job.

I have used angle grinder to cut 8 blanks (180 mm petty knives) in about 30 minutes. That would have taken much longer with a hack saw.

Before you start to grind away do not forget to use your safety gear - you do not want to breathe the freshly burned steel and steel dust or get hit by flying pieces of steel or cutting wheel in your eyes or face.

You will want to use 1 mm thick cutting discs. I have completely used 1 disc on those 8 blanks.

If you decide to get an angle grinder, get the 125 mm instead of 115 mm. They cost the same, the cutting discs cost the same, but 125 mm will last you longer. 1000 W of power is enough. Getting a weaker model does not really save you much and a stronger one is not really needed for this job (the price start to go up for more powerful models.

After 30 minutes of work.

Last but not least - there are guys who manage to grind blades with an angle grinder (I presume with the sanding discs). There are some youtube videos on how to do that (even building a grinding jig). It would not be my method of choice - if anything because of the noise, dirt/smell and potential to unnecessarily overheat the steel, but hey, it can be done.

Belt saw (for wood)

When making handles from wood (in particular hidden tang handles or WA handles) what often means that you need to remove larger amount of material from the handle before you will start with some finer shaping. There are many options how to do that and one of them is belt saw. I am planning on getting one to be able to cut large wood pieces to blocks.

Disc grinder

There are several uses for one. I currently only have a very small one - just 125mm in diameter, but it already helps me to flatten metal before cutting out the blanks or bolsters and also do some grinding on wood (squaring up blocks before further use). Should you be getting one go for a full size (300mm or 12") one. Be careful when using one - these machines like to throw things around.

Belt grinder 

When one mentions a belt grinder in the context of knifemaking, one immediately has in mind a 2x72" 2kW machine with all bells and whistles for 2000+ $ or €. Sure - that is indeed a tool of trade for many full time knifemakers, but if you are just starting you may want to have a look at a small and simple 1x30" grinder that will cost you under 100 $/€ (OK, you will soon be out more than that on belts). While not a necessity, I am finding more and more use for mine. Check out my article on 1x30" belt sanders for more details. These little machines may surprise you and considerably speed up many steps in the knife making. I am currently working on my Project #7 which is the first when I use a belt grinder to grind the bevels prior and after HT. I seem to need about 1 - 1.5 hours to grind a 180 mm blank to 80-90% of the final geometry (before HT). Of course - with more power and experience one could be a lot faster, but this is where I am with my 3rd blade ground with this little too.

1x30" belt grinder with Norton Blaze #60 belt

Vacuum cleaner

This is definitely not a 'must have' item, but an industrial vacuum cleaner will not only allow you to keep your shop clean, but you can attach it to some of the powered tools (e.g. some disc grinders, band saws, belt grinders, etc.) and that may keep the dust (in particular wood or other handle material) to get spread over the whole workshop. I have a small disc grinder and attaching a vacuum cleaner made huge difference.

Important to note here is that you do not want to use a normal household vacuum cleaner, as those will not survive long sucking fine dust and in particular metal dust. I finally chose Metabo 32 L and my first impressions are very positive.

Start grinding wood and you will really want one.

This is of course not an exclusive list. There are many more tools which you may or may not need (buffing wheel, dremel, etc.). Buffer will be something you want if you are making some hard wood handles for knives.  A dremel can help you with some detailed work around bolsters and help with many other smaller tasks.

No comments:

Post a Comment